Are Text-to-Win Sweepstakes Legal in the US?

Are you planning to offer a text sweepstakes, but  want to make sure that what you’re offering is actually legal? You’ve come to the right place.

If you’ve heard a little bit about sweepstakes, you already know that asking people to make a purchase in order to qualify to win your sweepstakes is illegal. But what is a text to win and is it really allowed?

Here is a brief explanation. Please note, the regulations discussed here apply to the United States only. If you’re planning to offer a text sweepstakes in other countries, we recommend you seek out legal counsel for further advice.

First, Make Sure You’re Not Running a Lottery

A lottery involves selling tickets and giving away prizes to ticket holders at random. In the U.S., lotteries are only allowed to be run by the government and several states don’t allow them at all.

A giveaway that requires a purchase therefore becomes an illegal lottery, which is not allowed in any state. Make sure you don’t require a purchase.

So What Makes it a Sweepstakes?

Typically when you offer a giveaway this is what’s known as a sweepstakes.

Here prizes are given away at zero cost to the entrants. Winners are selected randomly and there’s no consideration (or judging) involved in choosing a winner, only the luck of the draw. Think of it as a game of luck.

In most cases, it’s the consideration aspect of a promotion that can make your giveaway illegal, especially if you’re requiring participants to spend money.

This is why sweepstakes always includes the phrase ‘NO PURCHASE NECESSARY’ in the official rules.

What is a Text-to-Win?

A text to win or text sweepstakes is basically a sweepstakes done through the mobile text channel. The same sweepstakes rules apply, as well as text message marketing rules. The rules for text require disclosures and opt-ins to protect consumers. They’re different from sweepstakes rules, but still apply and need to be included when promoting the sweepstakes. 

So the answer to the original question is yes. A text-to-win sweepstakes is legal, as long as it follows sweepstakes regulations and text message marketing rules.

However, we still recommend you get advice from a lawyer before starting a promotion. You want to make sure you’re compliant and there may be industry regulations you’ll need to consider.

To get started with your own text-to-win, see features and pricing.

How Long Should It Take to Set Up & Run a Mobile Sweepstakes?

How To Set Up & Run a Mobile Tex To Win Sweepstakes

Once you decide to run a mobile sweepstakes, you figure it should only take a day to get started, right? Well, yes and no. There are a few factors to consider when planning your sweep and deciding how long your it should run.

Here’s a quick guide to help you plan out your campaign.

Setting Up Your Mobile Sweepstakes

While you can reserve your Sweepkey and open an account in a few minutes, it usually takes 1-2 weeks for clients to set up and launch their sweepstakes. Keep in mind, this includes the time needed to create your official rules using the Sweeppea Official Rules Wizard, define your campaign parameters, customize your campaign entry form (if needed) and thank you page, and announce it on your promotional channels.

If you need to register/bond your sweep, print display materials or signage for stores, or set up ad campaigns, plan on at least a month for setup.

Running Your Mobile Sweepstakes

Depending on the environment (retail, online, etc.), mobile sweepstakes should run from 3 to 6 months. This gives you enough time to fully reach your audience.  Three months is a good time frame in most cases, but there are always exceptions for shorter event-based or longer (yearly) text-to-win sweepstakes.

If you’re trying to decide between a longer or a shorter sweep, opt for a longer one if it targets an older demographic or if you’re running a seasonal sweepstakes. If you’re offering an instant win prize that can be redeemed easily and doesn’t require much effort to deliver, then shorter is better.

Wrapping Up

Keep in mind, the campaign doesn’t end once you choose a winner. Depending on the prizes, you’ll need 1 to 2 weeks after the sweepstakes to wrap it up, contact and verify the winner, fulfill the prize and assess reports and results.

After the sweep is also a good time to think about what you’ll do with your mobile subscriber list. Sending offers and invites by text works well as a tactic to increase sales and turn participants into customers.

Now that you have a better understanding of what to expect, you can make sure you’ve covered all of the bases for a successful campaign.

To get started with your mobile sweepstakes, see our features and pricing.

11 Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Text-to-Win Software Platform

Planning to run a text-to-win sweepstakes? Here are 11 questions to ask before using a text-to-win software platform.

1. Can you create your own entry page and can you brand it?

Not all text-to-win sweepstakes are text-based only. Adding an online entry form allows you to collect additional information like name, email, zip code, date-of-birth, address, etc. You should be able to customize and brand this form as well.

2. Can you customize the message recipients receive for confirming their entry?

After entering by text, everyone gets a confirmation message, which should be a custom message. If you’re told to use a default message or to include the platform’s name/branding, move on.

3. Can you do Instant Win?

Instant win is increasingly popular and should be an option. Our platform allows you to schedule the choosing of a random instant winner for every x number of participants or a single instant winner at a certain date/time.

4. Does the platform help you select a winner automatically?

The answer here should be “Yes!” With one setting, you can have the platform randomly pick a winner at a certain time and send a “you’ve won” text. You can select winners either manually or automatically with our software. Here are a few reasons why you might want to opt for automatic winner selection versus manual selection.

5. How does it handle winner notifications?

Your program should help notify the winner by text, automatically or manually. Sweeppea also offers a custom plan, which includes all of the tax forms, liability releases and affidavits required for sweepstakes winners. Contact us for more information.

6. Can you schedule your campaign to begin/end automatically?

There’s no need to wait ’til midnight to start/stop a campaign manually when our text-to-win platform can schedule it automatically. Once the end date and time passes, all post-end participants receive a message stating the sweeps has ended. 

7. Does the platform help with Official Rules?

This is one area where you’re often on your own. But not with us. We’re one of the only platforms to offer an Official Rules Wizard to help you create and host rules for your campaign. No sweepstakes should proceed without official rules in place. We can also arrange custom rules with sweepstakes administration and indemnification, if preferred, in our custom plan. 

8. Does it guide you in the legal aspects of texting?

While the legalities of running a sweepstakes are very important, their are legal rules for text messaging as well. Reputable platforms like ours will guide you on the notifications that are needed when running a text-to-win. For an overview, see our post on the legal rules of text message marketing.  

9. Does it handle registration and bonding?

Florida, New York and Rhode Island require bonding and registration for certain sweepstakes. If this is required for your campaign, consider our custom plan where we take care of it for you.

10. Is reporting available?

Everyone wants to see metrics, even for text-to-wins. You’ll find performance insights and reporting in our campaign reports.

11. What kind of help is available for setup and support?

What good is support when you have to wait 24 hours for a return email or phone call? When you work with us, we provide all of the setup and support you need. We offer one-on-one training and setup by phone or email. Our support team is also available by phone or email at any time.

These are basic answers you should have before working with any sweepstakes company, especially a text-to-win software platform. If you have other questions, contact us. We’d be happy to help. 

To get started with your own text-to-win, see our features and pricing.

Pet Store Pet Supermarket Mobile Contest

How Pet Supermarket uses text-to-win

A highly valued prize? Check.

Easy entry? Check.

Text coupons with high conversion? Again, check.

Pet Supermarket’s text-to-win has all the elements of a successful program and is indeed seeing huge success. Free pet food for a year certainly gets attention and with a new winner drawn every month, the buzz stays high.

Text-to-win signage in pet store chain

By using our text-to-win platform they’ve developed a mobile subscriber list in the thousands. Best of all, they increase their store sales with each text they send after the sweepstakes. They offer exclusive discounts and coupons that have generated a 7% to 12% conversion rate for sales in store.

How Pet Supermarket uses text-to-win

They also announce each month’s winner on Facebook, generating another round of excitement and entries. As their program has proven, text-to-win and text message marketing are cost-effective and efficient and can return high ROI.

Ready to start your own text-to-win?  See our features and pricing to get started.


Where to Promote Your Text-to-Win for Free or Sort of Free

Promoting a text-to-win sweepstakes used to be a challenging task. 

Now there are tons of places where you can promote your text-to-win for free (or almost free). Here are our top recommendations for “free-ish” places to promote your text-to-win.

Sweepstakes Aggregators

Sweepstakes aggregators are websites that allow you to submit your promotion. They are websites like that essentially compile information from around the web, allowing their visitors to view and enter sweepstakes.

If you promote your text-to-win on your website, submitting it to an aggregator can instantly put your campaign in front of thousands or even millions of users depending on the number of sites you submit to. While some of them are paid, many offer free listings. 

Your Website

As already mentioned, you can promote your sweep on your website’s home page or in a blog post. Consider also a notification bar on the home page, a pop-up or a dedicated landing page for the text-to-win. Our platform also offers an online entry form that can be hosted on our site or yours.


Don’t forget to include your text-to-win in any email newsletters or email campaigns. This will also work with transactional emails. If you send email purchase confirmations, for example, you can include a quick note for your sweep there as well.


These days, the reach of organic Facebook content has declined significantly. However, it can’t hurt to mention your sweep on your Facebook business page.

You can also reach out to influencers in your industry to have them promote your sweep on their pages, as well.


Twitter is a great place for sweepstakes promotions. If you want to get more subscribers for your campaign, post Tweets that include the Sweepskey and shortcode for your campaign. Don’t forget to include required disclosures, such as “Msg & data rates may apply.” See our post on the rules of text message marketing

Convince Your Suppliers or Partners to Mention Your Sweep

This is also a great way to find partners for your next sweep. When you convince your suppliers, vendors or retailers to mention your sweep, you can tap into their customer bases and get even more subscribers for your campaign.

This could be a win-win for both of you given the fact that more sales from sweep subscribers can mean more sales for them as well.

Ready to start your text-to-win sweepstakes campaign? Reserve Your Sweepkey now to get started in under 10 minutes.